Community Law Center

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Booze News: Distilled in Room 215

A blog about the Baltimore City Liquor Board

What happened at the Liquor Board on September 18, 2014.

September 25, 2014

Only two commissioners were present for hearings on September 18, 2014. Chairman Ward and Commissioner Moore were present; Commissioner Jones was absent.

11:00am cases

Licensees Byoung Wook An and Patrick Min
Business Name ACA Liquors, Inc.
Trading As Eric 500
Address 500 E. North Avenue
Type of License Class “BD7″ Beer, Wine, and Liquor
Reason for hearing

Violation of 1) Rule 3.12 on April 8, 2014: Police observed 6 people loitering inside vestibule areas of the establishment; 3 of these people were consuming alcohol from open containers.

2) Rule 4.18 Illegal Conduct on April 8, 2014: Police observed 6 people loitering inside vestibule area of the establishment; 3 of these people were consuming alcohol from open containers.

3) Violation of Rule 3.12 Public Welfare on April 9, 2014: Police officer observed an individual with an open container in the vestibule area of the restablishment.

4) Violation of rule 4.18 on April 9, 2014: Police officer observed an individual with an open container in the vestibule area of the establishment.

Hearing notes

This hearing was called first to accomodate the schedule of the licensees’ attorney.

Former seven-year Liquor Board Chairman Stephan Fogleman entered his appearance on behalf of the two licensees, who were present at the hearing. Before evidence was heard, Fogleman moved to dismiss or to merge the three counts, because they occurred less than two hours apart on the same day. Chairman Ward denied the motion.

Mr. Fogleman said, on behalf of his clients, that their store is “pretty quiet,” though it is at a bus stop. [The liquor store is on the northeast corner of Greenmount and North Avenues.]

Chairman Ward said that the licensees are “not using their lounge, and you can’t do that.” Ward said that you can’t turn a bar (BD-7 license) into a packaged liquor store and then use the front vestibule to have customers come in and drink. Fogleman replied, “I’ve discussed that with them.”

Police Sergeant Wilson stated that the open containers inside the liquor store is a “continual problem.” People sit there and drink in the vestibule, every single night, since he started as a police officer in that area in 2005. Fogleman responded that the licensees now have the cell phone numbers of police officers who patrol the area and have already called several times. Fogleman argued that, when there is a crowd of people, it is possible for someone in the middle of the line to make a “human wall” so that people could be drinking inside the store that the person behind the register can’t see. Sergeant Wilson said that usually, the people drinking inside are standing up against the wall. Sometimes they open their container and pour alcohol out into cups. Ward asked the officer whether he had seen either of the licensees shoo anyone away, and the officer replied without hesitation, “never.”

Mr. Randy Jung, the manager at the store, described how the store is very busy. He said that he tells all the patrons that they can’t open a container of alcohol at the store. When he sees it, he calls the police. He has posted a “no loitering” sign and now limits the number of patrons allowed inside to four at a time. When asked whether he could corroborate the licensee’s testimony, the sergeant said that he was just inside the store the previous night, and there were at least 9-10 people loitering inside.

The Commissioners asked more questions about the layout of the bar. There is a packaged goods section in the front of the store and a bar in the back of the building, with seven bar stools. Patrons have to be buzzed through a locked door in order to get to the bar area, and drinks are more expensive in the bar than sold in the packaged goods section, which is why the patrons try to drink in the front. Sergeant Wilson testified that he has not been in the bar area for three months, but when he was last there, it looked like a storage area, not a bar. There was stuff, including construction materials, stacked on the bar. There was no bartender behind the bar. He hasn’t seen any customers in the bar area in over a year. He said that patrons of Eric 500 often walk over and sit on the stoops of vacant houses on North Avenue and drink from open containers there.

Commissioner Moore said that Eric 500 has been in the news very much that week: a loitering issue escalated into a man being beaten by the police, and it was caught on camera. The incident started at Eric 500 and ended up across the street. Fogleman answered, “I don’t know that that’s been definitively determined yet.”

Fogleman asked his client what he does when he sees someone open an alcoholic beverage in his store. The manager responded that he tells them to leave the store. Ward exlaimed, “how are they going to leave with an open beer?! That’s ridiculous.”

Fogleman then asked his client how many times he has dialed 911 for police assistance since April 9 (the date of the violations). His client responded he has done so eight to ten times. Chairman Ward pointed out that the sergeant had testified that he hadn’t received these calls and the electronic records do not show these calls. Fogleman said that the police department’s records are not relevant for a violation hearing. Ward replied that the problem is that there is a conflict between the licensee’s testimony and the police records. Fogleman responded that his client has called the police officer on his cell phone and he “has made the problem go away since April 9.”

Zoning B-2-3
Neighborhood East Baltimore Midway
Area demographics 1% White, 96% Black, 0% Asian; 1% Hispanic ethnicity; 38% households have children under age 18; median household income: $30,821.90.
Does corp entity exist, in good standing? Yes, yes.
Location of entity’s principal office 500 E. North Avenue, Baltimore, MD 21202
Attorney for licensee Former Liquor Board Chairman Stephan Fogleman
# in support 2
Attorney for community None
# of protestants 0
# of inspectors/police officers 1
Result of hearing Responsible for all violations. 2-week suspension plus $3,000 fine.
Vote tally 2-0 (Jones absent)
Portions of state law cited in decision None
Other reasons given for decision

Chairman Ward said that these types of violations by licensees almost make a joke of the police department. Having a bar is a privilege, not a right, and the police department is not supposed to be operating as the regulator of bars in the city. The sergeant testified that the licensees are not using the bar portion of the establishment and they are operating a BD7 as a packaged goods store. “You’re not allowed to do that,” he said. “You must have a bar that’s serviced.” Ward continued, “for you to tell someone that they must leave [after opening an alcoholic beverage] is nothing less than a joke. You are responsible for the conduct of your customers.” Moore concurred. Ward said to Fogleman that he did a good job with his representation of these licensees, “because it could have been worse.”

Issues raised in audit present in this case or other issues observed

In Baltimore City, there are many BD-7 “tavern” licenses that are acting solely as liquor stores. Licensees apply for BD-7 licenses instead of Class A packaged goods licenses, because BD-7s can stay open until 2am (instead of 1am for Class A stores) and are allowed to be open seven days per week (Class A licenses are 6-day). Communities have found it extremely difficult to convince the Liquor Board and the Zoning Board (both of whom have jurisdiction over this issue) to enforce the law against BD-7s.

I. Transfers and Amendments

d

Applicant Rene de la Garrique and Scott Stauber
Business Name Dinosaur Restaurants, LLC
Trading As Dinosaur Bar-B-Que
Address 1401 Fleet Street
Type of License Class “B” Beer, Wine and Liquor License
Reason for hearing Application for a new class “B” Beer, Wine, and Liquor restaurant license under the provisions of Article 2B Section 6-201 (d) (vii) $500,000 in capital investment in restaurant fixtures, facilites, and seating capacity for a minimum of 75 people; request for outdoor table service.
Hearing notes

Ms. Leanne Schrecengost represented the three applicants for the new restaurant license.

Chairman Ward said, “I want to know how much you’ve spent.” Ms. Schrecengost replied that the applicants have spent $0 so far. Their lease is contingent on Liquor Board approval, so they have been contractually blocked from spending any money on the project until they are approved. The applicants plan to spend $922,000 on the interior of the building, of a total investment of $2 million. They don’t intend to break ground on the project until February 2015 and they will be open in July 2015. The commissioners asked to see a copy of the lease, and Ms. Schrecengost said that she would provide it — the lease agreement is 100 pages long. There is a 65-35% food-alcohol ratio requirement for the Class B restaurant license; Schrecengost said that the applicants plan to take in around 80% of its income from food sales.

Chairman Ward asked why the applicants didn’t try to buy a Class B license that is available on the market, rather than applying for a new license. Ms. Schrecengost replied that it doesn’t make financial sense for the applicants to find a license on the market when they are available from the Board. She added that the applicants are asking for conditional approval, since the project will not be operational for a year.

Commissioner Moore asked who would own the license. Schrecengost explained that the applicants would own the license on behalf of the LLC. Mr. Scott Stauber is the “Baltimore City resident” on the license. Moore asked him what his role will be with the project, and Mr. Stauber said that he is a community member and resident of Canton in support of the project. He will have nothing to do with the actual running of the business. He has made no financial investment in the business and will have nothing to do with its operations.

Zoning B-2-2
Neighborhood Fells Point
Area demographics 70% White, 8% Black, 5% Asian; 15% Hispanic ethnicity; 11% households have children under age 18; median household income: $69,105; 11% households live below the poverty line
Does corp entity exist, in good standing? Yes, yes.
Location of entity’s principal office 234 W. Genessee St, Syracuse, NY 13202
One applicant reside in Balt for 2 yrs? Yes.
Pecuniary interest of Baltimore City resident None
Attorney for licensee Ms. Leanne Schrecengost
# in support 2
Attorney for community None
# of protestants 0
# of inspectors/police officers 0
Result of hearing Approved
Vote tally 2-0
Portions of state law cited in decision None
Other reasons given for decision None
Issues raised in audit present in this case or other issues observed Article 2B section 10-103(b)(10) requires that each application contain a “statement that the applicant has a pecuniary interest in the business to be conducted under said license.” Mr. Stauber has made no financial investment in the business; therefore, he is not an acceptable applicant under Article 2B.
Applicant Solomon Belay
Business Name Five Seasons, LLC
Trading As Five Seasons
Address 828-30 Guilford Avenue
Type of License Class “B” Beer, Wine, and Liquor Licenses
Reason for hearing Request to remain open from 2:00am to 6:00am to serve food.
Hearing notes

Mr. Solomon Belay appeared on his own behalf for the hearing. He said that the application is to stay open from 2am to 6am to serve food only, not alcohol. He said that the restaurant would like to serve breakfast before 6am. He gave a history of his business: Five Seasons has been established for sixteen years, and serves international kinds of food. They have regular open mike and poetry nights. He noted that Governor O’Malley had named the Five Seasons as a great poetry venue for Baltimore City.

Commissioner Moore asked about daycares, playgrounds and churches nearby. Belay replied that the daycare that was previously close has moved away, there is a playground one block away, and there is a church one block away.

Moore asked how Belay would manage the transition at 2:00am from alcohol service to food-only service. Belay responded that they would cover up the bar and all the alcohol at 2:00am. No alcohol would be on the tables; staff would clear everything. In fact, they would clear out the entire restaurant of people and then let them back inside after all drinks had been cleared.

Mr. Jason Curtis, President of the Mount Vernon Belvedere Association (MVBA) then communicated his organization’s strong opposition to the application. The Five Seasons, said Curtis, is licensed as a Class B restaurant but is currently operating as a nightclub. All of the advertisements for the establishment show that it is a “nightclub and bar.” There are no menus on the website, and the place often doesn’t open until after 7pm, “which is after dinner time for most people.” In fact, the name of the business on the sign says Hot Spot Lounge, not “Five Seasons.” Curtis said that there is no public need and desire for the establishment to be open 2:00am-6:00am. At one point, Five Seasons had tried serving breakfast, and it wasn’t successful. There have been serious community complaints about violent incidents at the club, noise, and loitering. Curtis added that the playground and park nearby is called the Mount Vernon Children’s Park. It was created by MVBA, with $450,000 raised to build it, with the help of St. Ignatius Church. Curtis stated that the neighborhood’s biggest concern is nighttime noise. He noted that he was even more concerned than he already was after the licensee’s testimony that he plans to empty the club into the street and then bring people back in.

Mr. Belay then had the opportunity to ask questions of Mr. Curtis. Belay asked whether Mr. Curtis had had problems with other local bars and clubs. Curtis replied that the other establishments in the neighborhood don’t cause the loitering and noise problems that the Five Seasons does. Belay asked whether Curtis is concerned because the crowd that is coming is a different kind of crowd. Curtis responded that his concern is not with the kind of crowd but with the actions of the crowd, which disturb the community through public urination, intoxication, noise and fights. Belay followed up, “you don’t think it has to do with African-American kids?” Curtis said, “no, it’s not about the patrons, it’s about you and your establishment.” Belay asked, “did you ever come to the Five Seasons?” Curtis said that he had not been inside, but he had been in the parking lot, which had been filled with people drinking outside.

Baltimore Police Sergeant Wilson then testified about his experience with doing bar checks at the location. He has never seen food served at the establishment; he just learned during the hearing that Five Seasons had a restaurant license. He submitted police reports for the establishment, including a homicide of a Five Seasons patron and two Five Seasons security guards who were shot, in two separate incidents. Wilson said that, when the Five Seasons closes at 2:00am, many of its patrons go across the street to the hookah bar, which is open until 4:00am. According to Wilson, the police department devotes two officers from 7:00pm to 3:00am to sit in the parking lot of Five Seasons every Friday and Saturday night. Chairman Ward asked why the Board hadn’t received any notices of violations from the police department or from the Board’s own inspectors. Wilson replied that the police officers always forward their reports of violent incidents at bars to the Liquor Board, but he doesn’t know what happens after those reports are forwarded to the Board.

Mr. Belay then asked Sergeant Wilson whether he had ever asked for a menu. Wilson said no. Belay asked how he could know that there is no food served. Wilson replied that he has never seen anybody sitting at tables eating food. The patrons are all standing, dancing, and drinking. Mr. Belay asked Wilson whether he was aware if the hookah bars in the area are selling alcohol illegally, and Wilson replied that he was not aware of that. Mr. Belay said that his restaurant does serve food.

Mr. Curtis asked Mr. Belay why he had not come to any MVBA meetings; Belay responded that he had not received enough notice of the meeting to attend, but he would like to attend in the future.

Mr. Belay concluded by saying that, if he had known that he would be opposed, he would have brought hundreds of people from his own community. “I have my own community, too. They love to come here,” he said. He concluded by saying that it’s unfair for the “kids” who come to his club that they are not allowed to come after 2:00am.

Addressing this racial issue raised by the licensee, Commissioner Moore said that an argument that is reduced to racial differences is a failing argument. She bristles at racial arguments: they are ineffective and not persuasive. “That’s not what this is about.” She said that, when she was dating her husband, they would go to the Five Seasons. They had great food, according to Moore. Moore’s daughter has done poetry slams at Five Seasons. So the place has both a good and a bad reputation that has to be dealt with.

Zoning B-5-1
Neighborhood Mt. Vernon
Area demographics 53% White, 32% Black, 8% Asian, 3% 2 or more races; 4% Hispanic ethnicity; 6% households have children under age 18; Median Household Income: $38,331; 5.5 % households live below poverty line
Does corp entity exist, in good standing? Yes, revived.
Location of entity’s principal office 234 W. Genesee St, Syracuse, NY 13202
Attorney for licensee None
# in support 1
Attorney for community None
# of protestants 1
# of inspectors/police officers 1
Result of hearing Denied
Vote tally 2-0 (Jones absent)
Portions of state law cited in decision None
Other reasons given for decision None
Issues raised in audit present in this case or other issues observed None
Applicants Michael Ghebru and Charles Armwood, Jr.
Business Name Doc Liquors, Inc.
Trading As Doc’s Liquors
Address 1501 Fulton Avenue
Type of License Class “A” Beer, Wine, and Liquor License
Reason for hearing Application to transfer ownership.
Hearing notes

Mr. Kodenski represented the two applicants in a reconsideration of the September 4, 2014 hearing on the same matter. After the Board denied the application, the applicants had met with the community association and come up with a Memorandum of Understanding to present to the Board.

Dr. Marvin Cheatham, President of the Matthew A Henson Neighborhood Association, and also representing ARCO, testified that his group had met twice with the applicant and had jointly drafted a written agreement. He said that the neighborhood group thinks that they can work with the new owner, and they now think that he understands their issues and concerns. He added that, as a result of their discussion with the Doc’s applicants, other bar and liquor store owners in the area have joined the neighborhood association.

The Commissioners did not inquire into the contents of the Memorandum of Understanding.

Zoning R-8
Neighborhood Sandtown-Winchester
Area demographics 1% White, 96% Black, 0% Asian; 0% Hispanic ethnicity; 34% households have children under age 18; median household income: $23,974.
Does corp entity exist, in good standing? Yes, no.
Location of entity’s principal office 2101 W. Lexington St, Baltimore, MD 21223
Attorney for licensee Mr. Melvin Kodenski
# in support 3
Attorney for community None
# of protestants 0
# of inspectors/police officers 0
Result of hearing Approved
Vote tally Unanimous
Portions of state law cited in decision None
Other reasons given for decision None
Issues raised in audit present in this case or other issues observed None

II. Violations:

Licensees Kimberly Wilkens and Tina Wilkens
Business Name New Buckett’s Lounge, Inc.
Trading As New Buckett’s Lounge
Address 1432 N. Chester Street
Type of License Class “BD7″ Beer, Wine, and Liquor License
Reason for hearing Violation of Rule 4.01(a) Minors on April 4, 2014: Alcohol sold to an underage police cadet.
Hearing notes

Baltimore Police Detective Akinwande from the city’s Vice Unit testified, along with Police Cadet Gregory McCoy. The two licensees admitted responsibility for the violation, without an attorney. Detective Akinwande testified very briefly from his report that he observed Cadet McCoy enter the store and purchase a half pint of E&J brandy for $3.60.

Zoning R-8
Neighborhood Broadway East
Area demographics 1% White, 96% Black, 0% Asian, 1% 2 or more races; 1% Hispanic ethnicity; 35% of households have children under age 18; Median Household Income: $26,431.68; 21% households live below poverty line.
Does corp entity exist, in good standing? Yes, no.
Location of entity’s principal office 2915 Chelsea Terrace, Baltimore, MD 21216
Attorney for licensee None
# in support 2
Attorney for community None
# of protestants 0
# of inspectors/police officers 2
Result of hearing Responsible for violation. $500 fine.
Vote tally 2-0
Portions of state law cited in decision None
Other reasons given for decision None
Issues raised in audit present in this case or other issues observed None

1:00 p.m. cases

III. Violations.

Licensee Luis George
Business Name Two Louey’s Cantina II, LLC
Trading As Punta G Restaurant Bar and Lounge
Address 123 N. Clinton Street
Type of License Class “BD7″ Beer, Wine, and Liquor License
Reason for hearing

Violations of:

1) Rule 4.18 Illegal Conduct on July 13, 2014: Live entertainment (dancing) without Board approval.

2) Rule 3.02 Cooperation on July 13, 2014: Inspector observed bartender using buzzer as warning for Police/Inspector entering facility.

3) Rule 4.18 Illegal Conduct on January 26, 2014: Drug sales on the premises of the establishment.

4) Rule 4.01(a) Minors on December 12, 2013: Alcohol sold to an underage police cadet. Violation of Rule 4.18 Illegal Conduct on December 7, 2013: Licensee stated to police officer that he allowed the promoter to bring his own alcoholic beverages.

5) Rule 4.16 Narcotic Drugs on December 7, 2013: Patron was disoriented and screaming to police and her boyfriend that she had consumed drugs that were purchased inside Punta G.

6) Rule 4.18 Illegal Conduct on December 7, 2013: Used portion of the building (roof) not approved by the Board.

7) Rule 3.06 Sanitation and Safety on December 7, 2013: Establishment over capacity.

8) Rule 4.02 Inebriates and Drug Addicts on November 23, 2013: Over serving patrons; police observed patrons exiting establishment highly intoxicated.

9) Rule 3.12 Public Welfare on November 23, 2013: Large intoxicated crowd exited establishment and disturbed the peace and quiet of the neighborhood.

Hearing notes

Mr. Melvin Kodenski represented the licensee, Luis George, and his father, Luis George, Sr.

At the beginning of the hearing, Executive Secretary Michelle Bailey-Hedgepeth announced that the November 2013 charges would be dropped, because they actually were charges against another establishment and were included in this docket by mistake.

Rule 4.01(a); December 12, 2013:The Chairman began with the Rule 4.01(a) charge for alcohol sold to an underage police cadet. Baltimore City Police Detective LC Greenhill testified that on December 12, 2013, at 11:45pm, Police Cadet Phillip Jones was served an alcoholic beverage at Punta G. Cadet Jones was present but did not testify. Kodenski did not admit guilt on behalf of his clients but told the Board that the management has instructed all employees to check all IDs and will “have people take the alcohol awareness course.”

July 13, 2014: Inspector Tom Karanikolis testified that he went to Punta G with fellow inspector Michael Hyde and Officer Todd Brown. Karanikolis walked into the bar first, on his own, leaving Inspector Hyde in the squad car with the officer. When he entered, Karanikolis saw a DJ speaking into a microphone and people dancing inside the establishment, though the bar does not have Liquor Board permission for live entertainment. After around five minutes, a buzzer sounded, and the patrons stopped dancing immediately; “everyone was like a statue” and “looking towards the door.” Inspector Hyde and Officer Brown (who was in his police uniform) came through the door seconds later. Karanikolis wasn’t sure who had pressed the buzzer. Kodenski cross-examined Karanikolis about whether the crowd was unruly or disorderly. The inspector replied that they were not. Inspector Hyde testified briefly to corroborate Karanikolis’s story. Police Lieutenant William Colburn explained that it had become apparent to the police that there was a system in place to alert the patrons when the officers arrived. On multiple occasions, he had entered the bar to see “dozens of people standing on the dance floor all staring at [him].”

[During the hearing, all police testimony was presented first, for all violations; the licensee then responded to all violations. For the purposes of this post, the licensee's testimony will come directly after the police testimony for each violation.] Licensee Luis George (Jr.) testified that he does not have a buzzer installed on his property. Kodenski asked, “do you have anything that makes a sound?” The licensee responded that he has a smoke detector. Commissioner Moore asked Luis George, Sr. whether the smoke detector makes a buzzing sound, and George replied that it does. Moore asked what would have caused it to buzz on July 13, 2013. George replied that he often hears it buzz. Moore asked, “it was just coincidental?” George said, “perhaps.” Moore said, “you understand how that might sound kind of odd?” George replied that he did understand that.

January 26: As the police officers began their testimony about the events of January 26, 2014, Mr. Kodenski was rustling his papers near the microphone, which was interfering with the court reporter’s recording. The court reporter asked Kodenski to stop, but Kodenski did not hear him. Commissioner Moore explained to Kodenski what the court reporter had asked, joking, “pretend the buzzer has gone off. Be still.” Police Officer Israel Villodas testified that the police had received information that an individual inside Punta G was conducting illegal sales of narcotics. The police had received a description of his clothing and information that he was selling $100 bags of powdered cocaine. At 12:30 in the morning, Villodas walked into Punta G and saw the individual, whose name is Hugo Lopez. Villodas saw Lopez place a large package inside his pocket, wrapped in a napkin. Villodas asked Lopez if he had illegal narcotics on his person. Lopez gave his consent to a search of his person. Inside Lopez’s front right pocket, Villodas found 20 plastic bags, each with 1 gram of powdered cocaine inside, which each had a value of around $100. Villodas also found $1,181 in US currency in Lopez’s pocket. Villodas provided the lab report that showed that the powdered substance was tested by the police lab and found to be cocaine. Kodenski then asked questions of Mr. Villodas. Kodenski asked whether Villodas had seen any drug transaction, and Villodas responded that he had not. Kodenski then asked the result of the charges. Villodas said that Lopez had been deported. Police Officer Catherine Dulaney testified that she had submitted the drugs to the lab and had them analyzed.

December 7, 2013: Police Officer Todd Brown testified that he was patrolling in a marked police car and observed a young woman lying in the street, one block from Punta G, at the corner of N. Highland Avenue and Esther Place. Her name was Ms. Gray, and her boyfriend, who was with her, said that they were just at Punta G. He told Brown that an unidentified male was selling a narcotic in the club, which they believed to be ecstasy. Ms. Gray was screaming incoherently, which Brown believed was due to having a reaction to the drug she had taken. Kodenski objected to Brown’s testimony on this, because he had not seen Ms. Gray take any narcotic, and he could not know for sure what was causing her reaction. Chairman Ward then asked Brown about his experience with and knowledge of narcotic drugs. Brown said that he had undergone 40 hours of training in narcotics and has made 40-50 arrests for narcotics related crimes. He has some kind of experience with narcotics about every other day. Kodenski asked whether Brown had ever seen someone having a seizure or epileptic fit and whether it looks similar to having a reaction to a drug. Brown said that it could be a similar-looking reaction. Commissioner Moore noted that the young woman in the street was born in 1995, which made her 17 years old. Moore asked whether screaming and making noise was consistent with someone having a seizure, and Brown replied that it was not, in his experience. Kodenski said, “when someone’s possessed, they scream and holler. Have you ever seen anyone possessed?” Brown replied, “no, sir.” Brown continued with his testimony: a medic was dispatched to treat Ms. Gray and another police officer followed her and the ambulance to Johns Hopkins hospital. Brown went to Punta G to do a business check. When he arrived, there were 15-20 patrons exiting the side door. On the second floor of the establishment, there were 250 to 300 people jam-packed inside; the capacity for that floor was 140 persons, according to the fire marshall. There was a heavy aroma of burning marijuana. Kodenski objected to this description, saying “there are other things that smell like burning marijuana.” Brown replied, “no, sir.” Brown also saw that an exit was blocked with tables and chairs, and the staircase was not well-lit. Asked to give his opinion about the safety of the second floor, Brown said that if there had been an emergency on the second floor, “in [his] opinion, [the patrons] would have been trapped.” There were several patrons, who were possibly underage, who dropped their drinks and headed for the exit as soon as they saw Officer Brown. Brown went onto the roof, and there were numerous patrons there, smoking and consuming alcohol. Brown met Mr. George, the licensee, at this point. He told George that his license does not allow alcohol on the second floor. The license says that the second floor is for use as a meeting hall. George told Brown that he did not provide any alcohol for the second floor; an event promoter had brought his own alcohol. Kodenski cross-examined Brown about whether there was anything wrong on the first floor. Brown said that he didn’t really look around on the first floor, except to check the license. Brown also did not know the name of the promoter on the second floor. Kodenski asked whether the fire department was called. Brown said no, that he was concerned more with the safety of the patrons. He tried to calm everyone down and get them out of the second floor safely.

Luis George testified that he never allows or permits the sale of drugs and has security personnel to watch for illegal activity.s

Mr. Matthew Gonter testified on behalf of the Patterson Park Neighborhood Association (PPNA). He said that Mr. George signed a Memorandum of Understanding with PPNA in October 2012. Since then, he has blatantly violated live entertainment provisions several times. Gonter submitted citations from the Baltimore City Environmental Control Board for live entertainment wihtout a permit. Kodenski objected, saying that there was no testimony to authenticate Mr. Gonter’s submissions, since there was nobody from Baltimore City government to testify about the citations. Chairman Ward overruled the objection, saying that the Liquor Board is a “community board.” Kodenski argued that the Board has to be empowered by the state of Maryland; it can’t be one-sided, and it has to be for all citizens.

Kodenski closed by summarizing his already-stated arguments on each of the charges against the licensee. He pointed out that there was a “double charge” for one incident saying that the Liquor Board was using the “Ray Rice Routine.” “How many times can you punish someone for the same incident?” Kodenski asked. There was some confusion among the Commissioners about what it means that the license says that the second floor can be used as a “meeting hall.” Kodenski argued that the licensee can use the second floor as an extension of his bar, because it wouldn’t be listed on the license at all if the licensee weren’t permitted to use it to sell alcohol. Kodenski also argued that the fire department is the entity that regulates capacity, not the police department. Ward asked, “where did you get the idea that the police department and the fire department split up the capacity issues?” Kodenski explained that there had been an incident of overcrowding at the M&T Bank Stadium where the fire department and the police department had had a disagreement about capacity.

Zoning B-3-2
Neighborhood Patterson Park Neighborhood
Area demographics No data available.
Does corp entity exist, in good standing? Yes, yes.
Location of entity’s principal office 205 E. North Ave, Baltimore, MD 21202
Attorney for licensee Mr. Melvin Kodenski
# in support 2
Attorney for community None
# of protestants 1
# of inspectors/police officers 6
Result of hearing Responsible for all violations except sale of narcotic drugs. 30 day suspension. $4,000 fine.
Vote tally 2-0 (Jones absent)
Portions of state law cited in decision None
Other reasons given for decision

Chairman Ward said that he found the licensee’s testimony about the buzzer/smoke detector to be ridiculous. Moore disagreed with Ward on the narcotic drugs charge; she thought there was sufficient evidence to find responsibility on the drug sales. She added that the testimony from the licensee was helpful but not persuasive and not always logical. Ward warned the licensee, “don’t come back.” (The licensee already has an underage drinking violation scheduled for the following Thursday.)

Issues raised in audit present in this case or other issues observed None
Licensees Jeffrey Bowen and Michael Chalfant
Business Name Benders Tavern, LLC
Trading As Benders
Address 301 S. Ann Street
Type of License Class “BD7″ Beer, Wine, and Liquor License
Reason for hearing Violation of 1) Rule 4.05(a) on August 24, 2014: Licensee sold six-packs of beer after being told to close by Police Officer. 2) Violation of Rule 3.02 Cooperation on August 24, 2014: Licensee sold six-packs of beer after being told to close by Police Officer.
Hearing notes

Licensee Jeffrey Bowen was present on his own behalf. He admitted the violation.

Baltimore City Police Officer Brandi Gardner testified that she saw patrons inside the bar, still consuming alcohol, after 2am. She told the licensee that the bar was supposed to be closed and patrons were not supposed to be consuming alcohol. While she was standing there and after she had told him that he should already be closed, the licensee sold a 6-pack of Natty Boh to a customer.

Bowen explained that the evening in question was the bar’s two-year anniversary party. He had had friends and family in to celebrate from out of town. A couple of them were hanging back to help clean. He was nervous when the uniformed officer came in, and he admitted that he did sell the alcohol after hours. He added, however, “I felt like I didn’t do anything wrong.”

Chairman Ward admonished the licensee, saying “these police officers have other things to do” besides doing constant business checks of bars. The licensee apologized and said that the police do a good job of patrolling the area.

Zoning R-8
Neighborhood Upper Fells Point
Area demographics 53% White, 32% Black, 8% Asian, 3% 2 or more races; 4% Hispanic ethnicity; 6% households have children under age 18; Median Household Income: $38,331; 5.5 % households live below poverty line.
Does corp entity exist, in good standing? No, no.
Location of entity’s principal office N/A
Attorney for licensee None
# in support 1
Attorney for community None
# of protestants 0
# of inspectors/police officers 1
Result of hearing Responsible for violation. $500 fine.
Vote tally 2-0 (Jones absent)
Portions of state law cited in decision None
Other reasons given for decision None
Issues raised in audit present in this case or other issues observed

Chairman Ward tried to give a $1,000 fine, for a first offense, which is not allowed under Article 2B section 16-507(d). The maximum penalty for a first violation is a $500 fine or a license suspension or both.

Licensee Elaine Fordham
Business Name Isis, LLC
Trading As Isis Lounge
Address 226-28 Park Avenue
Type of License Class “BD7″ Beer, Wine, and Liquor License
Reason for hearing Violation of 1) Rule 3.03(a) Inventory and Records on August 1, 2014: Agent Michael Calvert of the Comptroller’s Office and Inspector Howard did a follow up visit to location and found a lack of documentation. 2) Violation of Rule 4.01(a) Relations with Wholesalers on August 12, 2014: Agent Michael Calvert (Comptroller’s Office) confiscated the following items due to lack of wholeser documentation: 27 bottles of Coors Light beer and 3 bottles of Miller MGC Beer.
Hearing notes

Ms. Fordham appeared, without an attorney.

Liquor Board Inspector John Howard testified about the first charge. On August 1, 2014, he inspected Isis Lounge. The person on duty only had one invoice from the time period of January 17 to July 31, but the store did have stock on the shelves. The inspector asked for more invoices but none could be produced. Howard then called the Maryland Comptroller’s office to do a followup inspection.

Agent Michael Calvert from the Comptroller’s office testified that he visited the store for a followup inspection on August 12. He requested invoices, and the manager did produce some but not all. Agent Calvert told the manager to call him if he found more invoices, and the manager never called him.

The licensee testified that she has taken over the management of the store. She had hired a manager because she was caring for her elderly grandmother, who was ill. She said that she was not making excuses and that she admitted the violations. She asked the Commissioners for leniency and said that she was keeping all records now.

Zoning B-4-2
Neighborhood Downtown
Area demographics 39% White, 37% Black, 16% Asian, 3% 2 or more races; 5% Hispanic ethnicity; 9% of households have children under age 18; Median Household Income: $38,146; 18% households live below poverty line.
Does corp entity exist, in good standing? Yes, yes.
Location of entity’s principal office 228 Park Ave, Baltimore, MD 21201
Attorney for licensee None
# in support 1
Attorney for community None
# of protestants 0
# of inspectors/police officers 2
Result of hearing Responsible for both charges. $250 each, $500 fine total.
Vote tally 2-0
Portions of state law cited in decision None
Other reasons given for decision None
Issues raised in audit present in this case or other issues observed None
Licensees Mehdi Poursaka and Max Dalton
Business Name Ultra Lounge, LLC
Trading As Mirage
Address 401 West Baltimore Street
Type of License Class “BD7″ Beer, Wine, and Liquor License
Reason for hearing Violations of
1) Rule 3.12 Public Welfare on January 13, 2014: Fight inside establishment, patrons exposed to mace discharged by security personnel.
2) Rule 3.12 Public Welfare on September 21, 2013: BCPD responded for crowd control, patrons became unruly when notified that the establishment was at capacity and no one else was admitted.
3) Rule 4.18 Illegal Conduct on September 21, 2013: Establishment over capacity, which is rated at 25; the first floor crowd was estimated at 315.
4) Rule 3.06 Sanitation and Safety on September 21, 2013: Establishment over capacity.
5) Rule 3.02 Cooperation on September 21, 2013: Police advised employee that no one else was to be admitted to the club; officers observed unknown employee allowing patrons to enter at the rear entrance.
6) Rule 3.12 Public Welfare on January 13, 2014: Police officer attempting to break up fight outside of the establishment was punched in the face by a patron.
7) Violation of Rule 3.02 Cooperation on September 21, 2013: Employee refused to present liquor license when requested by officer.
Hearing notes

Mr. Melvin Kodenski and Mr. Peter Prevas were co-counsel for the licensees. Mr. Kodenski was counsel for the January 13 violations and Mr. Prevas was counsel for the September 21 violations.

January 13, 2014:Police Detective LC Greenhilll testified that, on January 13, 2014, at 1:20-1:30am, two female patrons started fighting. In order to break up the fight, someone sprayed mace. Other patrons began having breathing difficulties, so many of them left the club for fresh air. A wondow was broken in order to get fresh air inside the club.

Police Officer Michael McGrath testified next. At 1:28am, he saw Officer Long trying to break up the fight. A man, later determined to be Christopher Lee, ran up and sucker-punched Officer Long in the face, which broke his nose. The other officers chased Lee, who got in a car with two other people and started driving. The officers pursued in their vehicles, along with Foxtrot (the police helicopter). The three suspects were apprehended quickly; Lee was found hiding underneath another car. Police searched the car that Lee had used as a getaway and had found two loaded handguns, including one Glock 23, loaded with 19 rounds; 13 of the 19 bullets were hollow-point.

September 21, 2013: Police Officer Molly Seitler testified that she responded to the club at midnight, and there was a large crowd outside. The Sergeant Dent told her that the club was at full capacity, and the police were not allowing anyone else in the club. The patrons who were still outside became upset and started yelling that they wanted their money back. Anthony Ilkhan, one of the club owners, was arguing with Sergeant Dent; Dent asked to see the liquor license for the club, and Ilkhan refused to give it to him. Officer Seitler talked to one of the security guards about it, and the security guard retrieved the license for her. Citiwatch cameras showed that there was someone at the back door of the club letting patrons inside. Sergeant Dent notified the fire marshall, who responded to the location and found that the club was definitely over capacity. The police and fire marshall then closed the club. Several fights occurred at the club that night, and one person was arrested. Another patron was cited. Upon cross-examination from Mr. Prevas, Officer Seitler said that the capacity of the first floor was 250, and there were around 400 people inside. However, there was a second floor to the building, whose capacity was 150. Prevas argued that the club was not, in fact, over capacity.

Seitler then testified in general about the club. She said she works that area every day on patrol, and there have been fights, assaults, cuttings, shootings, and other disorderly conduct there on a very regular basis. Every night that the club is open, they require assistance from the police. There are usually six or seven officers there each night. However, the club has been open less frequently in the past several months, so there have been fewer incidents. Under questioning from the commissioners, she said that there always have to be additional police officers at the beginning and end of the evening. The police often block the street off and have to exert a continuous effort to keep peace. Prevas asked Seitler whether the police don’t also have to do this at Oriole Park. She replied that they do, but Camden Yards is in a different police district. Ward asked Prevas, “what’s that got to do with this?” Prevas responded. “the point, your honor, is: what is the culpability of the club? If we’re going to smear accusations, we’re going to smear them all over the city.” Ward responded angrily to Prevas that he needed to apologize to Officer Seitler for saying that she was smearing his client merely by bringing charges against him. Prevas apologized.

Kodenski made his closing remarks about the incidents of January 13. He said that there were two charges for one incident, so the two charges should be merged. He pointed out that nobody from the community was present to say that anyone was disturbed by what happened that night. He also argued that Christopher Lee was not an employee or otherwise linked with the club except that he was inside. Kodenski said, “this city has plenty of bad guys. They just walk in off the street.” Kodenski mentioned that it would have been helpful to have Officer Long present to testify about his experience. Ward agreed with Kodenski, exclaiming, “the prosecutions in these cases stink! I have to say, Michelle, I don’t know what’s wrong here. If I have to talk to the Commissioner or what I have to do. This kind of missing evidence or knowledge is very disturbing to me. It happens during these serious cases where the licensee’s business is in danger of being shut down.”

Prevas then closed his case about September 21. He pointed out that the establishment has two floors, with capacities of 250 and 150. During his argument, Prevas referred to Ward having a “pet peeve,” which Chairman Ward objected to strongly. Ward asked, “would you have the nerve to say that to me when I was in the Circuit Court of Baltimore City? It’s judicially unwise to make that kind of comment. I don’t know why you do these things. I really don’t have a pet peeve.” Prevas apologized, but Ward continued, “the craziest thing I ever did was accept this job!” Prevas said, “I didn’t mean it in an… ill sense.”

Zoning B-4-2
Neighborhood Downtown
Area demographics 39% White, 37% Black, 16% Asian, 3% 2 or more races; 5% Hispanic ethnicity; 9% of households have children under age 18; Median Household Income: $38,146; 18% households live below poverty line
Does corp entity exist, in good standing? Yes, no.
Attorney for licensee Mr. Melvin Kodenski
# in support 1
Attorney for community None
# of protestants 0
# of inspectors/police officers 3
Result of hearing Responsible for both charges. 30 day suspension. $4,000 fine.
Vote tally 2-0
Portions of state law cited in decision None
Other reasons given for decision

Ward noted that the bar has completely failed to be under control and is a public nuisance, requiring all kinds of police activity. He said, “this is outrageous that our police department has to take this kind of time, money and effort to protect our citizenry against this kind of business.” Ward wanted to close the business for two months, and said that it was only because Officer Seitler said that it wasn’t as bad lately that he was pulling back from revocation. Moore agreed with the finding of responsibility and said that she would prefer a 1-month closure. Ward joined her in the one month closure.

Issues raised in audit present in this case or other issues observed None
Licensee Ryan Perlberg
Business Name Shot Tower, LLC
Trading As Willow
Address 811 S. Broadway
Type of License Class “B” Beer, Wine, and Liquor License
Reason for hearing Violation of Rule 4.05(a0) Prohibited Hours on July 13, 2014: Patrons found consuming alcohol after hours at outside tables.
Hearing notes

The case was not called or explained.

Zoning B-3-2
Neighborhood Fells Point
Area demographics 70% White, 8% Black, 5% Asian; 15% Hispanic ethnicity; 11% households have children under age 18; median household income: $69,105; 11% households live below the poverty line.
Does corp entity exist, in good standing? Yes, yes.
Location of entity’s principal office 811 S Broadway, Baltimore, MD 21231
Attorney for licensee N/A
# in support N/A
Attorney for community N/A
# of protestants N/A
# of inspectors/police officers N/A
Result of hearing N/A
Vote tally N/A
Portions of state law cited in decision N/A
Other reasons given for decision N/A
Issues raised in audit present in this case or other issues observed N/A
Licensees Sanjiv Suri and Ronald Sokal
Business Name Suri Jatin, Inc.
Trading As M and J Discount Liquors
Address 5500 Park Heights Avenue
Type of License Class “A” Beer, Wine, and Liquor License
Reason for hearing Violations of 1) Rule 4.10(a) Minors on March 31, 2014: Agents from the Office of the Comptroller found 49 bottles of alcohol in the establishment identified as having come from a stolen alcohol shipment. 2) Rule 3.03(a) Records on March 31, 2014: Licensee was unable to provide records for purchase of 49 bottles of 3.75ml of Hennessy (cognac).
Hearing notes

Mr. Melvin Kodenski represented one of the two licensees. The licensee admitted the violation.

An inspector from the Maryland Comptroller’s office, Agent James Oleynik, testified about his experience with this bar. Oleynik was doing a business check when he found the bottles of Hennessy from the hijacked shipment. Oleynik asked the licensee where he got those bottles, but the licensee wouldn’t tell him. He immediately got on the phone to Mr. Kodenski.

The agent added that he had spoken with the qualifying resident for Baltimore City, Ronald Sokal, and he told the agent that he had never set foot in the store. [The law requires that one licensee be a resident of the county where the establishment is located; the Baltimore City Liquor Board has always allowed people who are completely unrelated to the establishment to serve in this position.] After some discussion of what he meant, Chairman Ward said to the agent, “give us your point.” Oleynik explained that he worked for a long time with the Annapolis police department and was the “de facto chief liquor inspector.” In Anne Arundel County, the Board took a close look at the applicants for a license and asked each one, what are you going to do to make sure that nothing goes wrong in this business. The idea of the residency requirement was that someone in the town is vouching for the business. Oleynik just found it odd that Sokal had never been to the business, though he owns his own business nearby. Oleynik concluded the hearing by saying, if people are responsible for a license, they should be involved. He said to the commissioners, “it’s your house and your rules. I just thought it was strange.”

The commissioners briefly discussed the “Hennessy Heist” and Kodenski mentioned that there has been another hijacking from a Hale Transport yard. Kodenski said, “they took a load of Johnnie Walker and some other kind of scotch.”

Zoning B-2-2
Neighborhood Arlington
Area demographics 2% White, 94% Black, 0% Asian, 1% Hispanic ethnicity; 63% households have children under age 18; median household income: $28,815.
Does corp entity exist, in good standing? Yes, yes.
Location of entity’s principal office 1148 E. North Ave, Baltimore, MD 21202
Attorney for licensee Mr. Melvin Kodenski
# in support 1
Attorney for community None
# of protestants 0
# of inspectors/police officers 1
Result of hearing Responsible for both charges. $1500 fine.
Vote tally 2-0
Portions of state law cited in decision None
Other reasons given for decision None
Issues raised in audit present in this case or other issues observed This case highlights the pervasive problem in Baltimore City of putting a Baltimore City resident’s name on the application who has nothing to do with the business. Under Article 2B section 10-103, the application must contain a statement that the applicant “has a pecuniary interest in the business to be conducted under said license.” The Liquor Board’s application has a question that asks “What financial interest do you have in the business to be conducted under this license?” Baltimore City residents usually write “0%” here, which does not satisfy the requirements of Article 2B section 10-103(b)(10). Also, Rule 3.01 of the Liquor Board’s Rules and Regulations states that “[e]very licensee shall be the actual owner and operator of the business conducted on the licensed premises.” This admittedly longstanding practice by the Board is in violation of both Article 2B and the Board’s own rules.

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